Quote of the Day: D-Train derailed again

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Dontrelle Willis, on handing out eight walks while allowing six runs in 3.2 innings Sunday:

Honestly, today was just unacceptable. I can’t put my team in that
type of hole. Can’t beat anybody pitching like that. It’s very tough to
pitch when you’re in a jam every inning. I’m going to have to finally
do something, or somebody else is going to have to go out there to help
this ball club win. Because I just can’t go out there and do that. You
can’t defend a walk.

I appreciate Skip giving me the leeway to go out there every time.
Every time he gives me leeway, I go one step forward and two steps
back. It’s just unacceptable, and I’m disappointed in myself the way I
played today. Just throwing the ball and making them hit it. I don’t
care what corner it is. Just go out there and establish that I can
throw the ball over the plate.

Struggling to throw strikes is nothing new for Willis, but he initially
showed some signs of potentially getting over the problem after
rejoining the Tigers’ rotation last month. However, over his last three
starts Willis has walked 18 batters in 11 innings and is sadly looking
like as big a mess as ever.

Jeremy Bonderman was quickly sent back to the disabled list
last week after struggling in his season debut, but as Willis notes in
the above quote manager Jim Leyland has been very patient with him. So
far, at least. While the Tigers are up three games in what is a weak AL
Central, they can’t afford to keep trotting Willis out there to implode
every fifth day and he might be one more rough outing from being
replaced by Zach Miner.

Rick Ankiel blazed a trail for young left-handed pitchers who
suddenly can’t throw strikes by becoming a full-time outfielder and some people are calling for
the Tigers to make the same switch with Willis. Of course, while
Willis’ career .233/.279/.358 line is really good for a pitcher it’s
also really bad for an outfielder.

Plus, even if Willis were to follow in Ankiel’s footsteps by
significantly boosting his offense after becoming a full-time hitter
the Ankiel path also included multiple seasons between pitching in the
majors and hitting in the majors. Ankiel had his Willis-like struggles
in 2001 with another brief stint as a pitcher in 2004 and became a
starting outfielder in 2007. Willis is already 27 years old, so he
doesn’t really have that kind of time.

Jose Canseco to join NBC Sports California as an A’s analyst

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Hey, I have a new coworker: Jose Canseco has been hired by NBC Sports California as an Athletics pregame analyst.

OK, maybe he’s not technically a coworker, as the folks at NBC Sports California — formerly CSN Bay Area — and I do not hang out at the water cooler, have potlucks in the conference room or exchange secret Santa gifts at Christmas time, but dang it, I’m gonna TELL people I work with Jose Canseco. The only downside will be people assuming that, because he and I are on the same team, my performance is something less than authentic. Or, perhaps, Canseco may write another book and tell all of my secrets.

Anyway, Canseco will be part of NBC Sports California’s A’s Pregame Live and A’s Postgame Live shows. Live TV can be hard. I’ve done a bit of it, and there is certainly more to that gig than meets the eye. You can’t always prepare for what happens on the fly. I’m sure Canseco will do well, however, as he’s great with coming up with the best stuff off the top of his head.

2017 Preview: Cleveland Indians

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Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2017 season. Next up: The Cleveland Indians.

The Cleveland Indians almost won the World Series without their best hitter for the whole season and two of their starting pitchers for the playoffs. This year that hitter — Michael Brantley — is back and the starters — Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar — are healthy. Oh, and they added arguably the best free agent bat available in Edwin Encarnacion.

Baseball teams love to downplay their expectations, but given where the Indians are at the moment, anything less than another American League Pennant will have to feel like a disappointment, right? Fortunately for the Indians, they stand as the favorites to do just that.

They didn’t lose much in the offseason. Yes, World Series hero Rajai Davis is gone, but the Indians outfield will be fine if Brantley remains healthy. Mike Napoli‘s loss will be felt but it will be made up for with Encarnacion’s bat and probably then some. Coco Crisp left too, but he was not a key part of the equation.

The biggest losses are guys from last year who will start the year on the disabled list, most notably Jason Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall. Kipnis is just starting to work out following time off to rest his sore shoulder. Chisenhall ran into a wall the other day and is being evaluated. There is no sense that either will miss extended time, however.

Otherwise, the lineup should score a lot of runs, with on-base machines Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor setting the table for Encarnacion, Brantley and Carlos Santana, who is entering his walk year. The Indians trailed only the Red Sox in runs scored in the American League last year and they should score a lot of runs this year as well.

The strength of the club, however, remains its pitching. Corey Kluber looked like his old Cy Young self last year, particularly in the playoffs. Danny Salazar built on his excellent 2015 season in the first half before falling prey to injury. Carlos Carrasco posted an ERA+ of 141 before breaking his hand and Josh Tomlin and Trevor Bauer both stood out for fourth and fifth starters.

The bullpen is excellent too, as relief ace Andrew Miller is joined by Cody Allen, Bryan Shaw and newcomer Boone Logan make up one of the relief corps in baseball.

Pitcher health is probably the biggest uncertainty for any contender, but the Indians have the best pitching in the AL if everyone stays healthy. And maybe even if one or two guys don’t.

It’s hard to find much fault with the 2017 Cleveland Indians. They are the class of their division and, while the slog of the regular season turns a lot of surefire contenders into hash before it’s all said and done, there is no reason to look at the Indians right now and think of them as anything other than the best team in the American League.

Prediction: First place, American League Central.